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How Did You Get Your Theology?

May 5, 2014

Many have found their way to the blog posts by various authors over the past week which have been Tweeted with the hashtag #wreckedtheology. It has been an amazing thing to see. Today is my second post for this topic.

During the initial Twitter conversation with Jennifer Neyhart (@JenniferNeyhart), one individual stated something to the effect that no author would influence or wreck his theology. It became evident this person felt their theology was perfected, or complete, and was not to be budged by any person. But this makes me ask, where did this completed theology come from?

I have met people who think their theology came from the Bible without influence from outside it. While I guess that is possible, it is most unlikely that this is how it occurred. After all, we were not born with this theology. It had to develop from somewhere. I believe there are several places a person learns and develops their theology from.

The first place a person finds and learns their theology is their family. As you grow your family teaches you beliefs and traditions of your faith. This may have included Biblical instruction, or may not have. It may be more Bible and less tradition, or more tradition and very little Bible. But the reality of it is, your parents or guardians were the first ones to help you develop your theology.

The next person I believe impacted a person’s theology is their local pastor or priest. As you sit through sermon after sermon, lesson after lesson you develop a theology whether you realize it or not. This person takes their childhood beliefs, adds their theological instruction, and produces a new faith they can call their own. This personal theology will form a lens which will shape their words as they deliver every lesson. In other words, the sermon is not perfected theology, but it is a message shared through the lens of the pastor’s personal theology.

Another influence for personal theology is through media. This includes news, books, magazines, and the internet. Almost every message received through these avenues proceeds to affect the personal theology. This impact may be unnoticeable or may change a person radically. But it does have an impact.

Why is this so important? To not acknowledge that a theology is a fluid thing constantly being influenced by external stimuli is to walk in spiritual blindness because it leaves the spiritual awareness down. Thinking uncritically about this is more dangerous than engaging authors who will provide useful data to add into this mixture. When a person chooses a breadth of authors who are different in gender, age, and denominational background there will be no choice but to acknowledge the personal theology and critically look at each component of it and decide whether to adjust it, leave it the same, or jettison it. This is what a healthy process of spiritual growth looks like which will develop a useful spiritual theology. We do not live in a vacuum, so we must not study like we do.

What do you do to stimulate your spiritual growth and develop a healthy theology?

  1. It’s interesting to think that Theology as a whole is a fluid thing. Most people will say that Theology is rather rigid, as they are comparing the different religions and their practices. But as you have clearly pointed out, theology isn’t just the study of the Bible and religious practices. It’s the entire aspect of what it means on a individual basis. Individual theology might be compared to snowflakes; there are no two identical ones. Oh sure, a wife might believe exactly as her husband does, whether it be naivety, submission, or individual will, but if the truth be told, I’m sure there would be some differences. She might believe every word that comes out of a TV evangelist’s mouth, while the husband believes it’s all brainwashing, even if the couple and the evangelist share the same religion. Had the same sermon come out of their local pastor’s mouth, neither one would challenge a word. But the method of delivery in this example proves your point of fluidity – the husband chooses his spiritual food from sources he trusts, while the wife is not opposed to sensationalized media, because she can see the message behind it. Neither one are wrong choices as long as it leads to spiritual growth.

    (Disclaimer: If persons reading this comment take offense to my examples by the means of stereotyping, insinuating submission, or all other types clearly did not get my message. I used said examples for the means of clarity in proving my point.)

    • Thank you for commenting (and I apologize for taking this long to reply). For the longest time I thought theology was rigid also. But that is what happens when we think of theology as something we read in a textbook.

      Problem is we forget we are doing practical theology every day. Each choice we make we run trough our theological filters. And our filters are always being changed.

      Again, thank you again for the great comment!

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